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Clearlight - Clearlight Symphony CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.91 | 202 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars Frequently stunning, often chaotic and noisy, but always fascinating, Cyrille Verdeaux's Clearlight project's debut album is a 40-minute instrumental progressive space-rock suite, overloaded with Mellotron, synths and spacey organ. His band never seemed to have many permanent members other than himself, but on this album he enlisted a bunch of familiar Gong members in Steve Hillage, Tim Blake and Didier Malherbe to complete part of his symphony. Although they make excellent contributions, none of the music actually sounds anything like Gong. Members of Lard Free contribute as well. It's a very grand, classical, gothic tinged jazzy symphonic suite, spread over two side-long pieces.

I don't think I've ever heard the Mellotron used so much on one album, and so frequently! There's waves of 'Tron strings and choirs over almost every inch of this album, sometimes it's magical and majestic, other times sinister and menacing. There's also cello, endless discordant piano, ragged guitar solos, complex drumming and shimmering synths. I think this album might have been an influence on similar styled modern bands such as Anglagard and Kotobel.

Side A's `1st Movement' introduces and reprises a somber, haunting piano melody that drifts in and out of the track, usually accompanied by the Mellotron. Baroque and medievil elements are interspersed with jazzy flourishes and spacey synths. However, there's several slightly sinister tones that show up throughout, with tuneless wailing horn instruments (likely from Malherbe!) and haunting voices, like something out of a horror movie. Ghostly off-key piano keys pound away, the chaos and noise reaching breaking point at several moments. Frantic and maddening! Pink Floyd like spacey effects and Blake's electronics purr along intermittently in the background, with Steve Hillage's signature sound on electric guitar wailing away through all the unfocused noise! Extremely unpleasant much of the time, fragile and beautiful the next, but very atmospheric and original!

With guest appearances by some Lard Free members, the first few minutes of `2nd Movement' sounds like a slightly more symphonic Magma, especially their early jazzier work. The Mellotron/piano combo melody gets very disorientating, and there's some definite fusion elements as well. The terrific drumming is extremely busy! About six minutes in the music turns very Canterbury, not unlike something from the two Hatfield and the North albums. The slight zeuhl influence kicks back in with a maddening and frantic guitar solo playing over the top of the insane drumming, chaotic piano and squealing sax. Plenty of that spectral weeping Mellotron again throughout numerous parts of this track too.

Special mention must go to the Jean Claude Michel's stunning painted artwork, a truely mind- blowing prog album cover! Only the vinyl edition will do to really appreciate how good it is! One of the best all-time prog album covers perhaps?

Unfortunately, the album itself is not a particular favourite of mine, there's probably more that I really admire than actually enjoy. I find there's so many individual incredible ideas that seem all thrown together, and the album is frequently cluttered and jarring to me. It's impossibly beautiful one minute, then tuneless and annoying the next. I would rather all the dark and noisy elements perhaps have been confined to one of the Movements, and the symphonic and uplifting ideas to the other. Would have made for a more focused listen, you can then choose which piece suited you best depending on what mood you're in! However, fans of grand symphonic prog, and perhaps gothic darkness tinged prog acts such as Present or even Anglagard may find much to enjoy here.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |


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